“This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”” (John 10:6–10, ESV)
I love the way similes (comparative figures of speech) can be used to paint pictures and make them understandable. They can even be modified to emphasize different aspects or used to clarify points of confusion. There is a huge difference between a simile or a “figure of speech” and saying that one thing is another. The Jews had been stumbling over Jesus’ words in a number of ways. Some of them they had taken His words quite literally such that they were repulsed with the concept of physically eating His body or drinking His blood in John chapter 6. In this and so many other times they totally missed the point. Jesus used these figures or speech or parables in order to talk to people in such a way that those who would not believe could not understand, followed by times of further explanation to those whose hearts were ready and willing to hear.
In the first verses of chapter 10 Jesus spoke of the sheep as believers who knew their shepherd and would know and listen to his voice and come to him when he called. On the other hand, not knowing the voice of the thief or robber when given the opportunity they would flee his presence. We read that the only one who had access to the door though which the sheep would enter is the shepherd who is known to the gatekeeper. Anyone else would have to try to break in through other means and even then do so ineffectively. Only the shepherd had access through the gate with the permission of the gatekeeper. Only the shepherd could safely lead the sheep out of their present place and into the fold.
As Jesus concluded this figure of speech we read that the people did not understand, and so He continued by switching things up a bit. This time rather than focusing on the shepherd He focused on the gate by which the sheep enter. They did not grasp the shepherd being the only one capable of leading the sheep into the fold, so He then spoke to them about the only access to that fold. And in doing that He told them that He Himself is that door with another “Truly, truly” statement. “So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.””
He then went on to say that many had come before Him making illegitimate claims, but only He offered true access. Even today this remains true in relation to all who have come afterward. There is and always has been only one way into the eternal fold, and that is through the Son of God. Jesus said that all who came before Him were “thieves and robbers,” adding that the sheep (those who knew the voice of the shepherd—who knew and followed after God) did not listen to them. They did not get led astray, even though there were and have been many who were intent on doing so. Jesus said those who enter through Him by the access that only He gives are saved, being able to go in and find pasture. Then He added one of those verses that I had long ago memorized but frequently have forgotten the context in which it is found. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
What an incredible contrast. Satan exists. Evil exists. False prophets exist. All of those who would subvert God and raise themselves up exist, and all that they have to offer ends up in death and destruction. The only One who came to give life and was perfectly able to do so is Jesus Christ. Jesus said that He came for that purpose, and He said that He was the One and only One through whom people could enter. This is a bold claim. But it is a bold claim made by God Himself and there can be no higher authority on the matter.
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